Blue EV build


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Los Angeles, CA
By semi-popular demand here it is... my build thread! Those who read my IKEA Effect thread know that I'm somewhat ambivalent about making this public but there was some interest and I think the build is interesting. To make a long story(so far) short, I started on a B35 swap that has crept into a full-on rotisserie restoration with Tesla EV conversion.

I bought a "nice from 15 feet" 73 Baikal Blue USA Automatic coupe off eBay back in 2015. My wife and I drove it home from NorCal but the secondaries were stuck closed in the Webers and the trans wouldn't kick down. I spent a few years fixing little things and driving it. It was fine but there was some rust (spare tire, right rear floor, rocker rear corners) and it smoked a bit on deceleration so I decided to embark on a motor upgrade and undercarriage cleanup, without messing with paintwork yet. I'd save that for a full resto at a later date.


I hate to admit, but this is the *before* photo

ChrisHB put me in touch with sfDon and I started assembling all the bits for a M30B35 swap. I got most all the parts together from Don and took the car to the SoCal Vintage meet in November 2018 before driving it home and beginning disassembly for the heart transplant. I was thinking I'd get it done over the holiday break. One thing led to another (unexpected rust, a "while I'm in there" attitude, and a desire to "do it right") and before you knew it I had built a chassis dolly and sent it off for media blasting.


This is what "Scope Creep" looks like

Along the way, JetDexter started his CSE build thread. I'd always been interested in electrification of old cars. My daughter has a 64 Impala lowrider and I always thought a lowrider would make a great candidate for EV (they aren't driven far and they're already full of batteries for the hydros and they have huge trunks and the lighter upfront the better for 3-wheel motion) but the idea was too expensive and complex.

XmasToNewYears2012 071-COLLAGE.jpg

My daughter loves her 327 SBC and one lowrider in the family is enough, really.

But I went to visit Paul's shop and caught his enthusiasm. His CSE project made me think the conversion was feasible so, despite having accumulated the best of everything for a B35 swap, I decided to ride his coat tails. Result? Be on the lookup for a a lot of "Electrification Forces Sale" posts on the Parts board in the next few weeks. If you're in the market for a "best of everything" show quality, ceramic coated, zinc plated, etc, etc. B35, 5-speed, LSD driveline let me know. Feel free to ask Don about provenance.

At this point, the car is sitting next to Paul's and Tyler has started rust repair. Fortunately, there were no big surprises from blasting. A few pinholes in the roof at the back edge of the sunroof and a little bit of prior bodywork near the right front turn signal but otherwise nothing I didn't already know about.


Charlie: You were in a 4G inverted dive with a Mig 28?
Maverick: Yes, ma'am.
Charlie: At what range?
Maverick: Um, about two meters.
Goose: It was actually about one and a half I think. It was one and a half. I've got a great Polaroid of it, and he's right there, must be one and a half.
Maverick: It was a nice picture.
Goose: Thanks.
Charlie: Eh, lieutenant, what were you doing there?
Goose: Communicating.
Maverick: Communicating. Keeping up foreign relations. You know, giving him the bird?


The factory undercoat was tough to remove. Even media blasting just bounces off.


The exterior body panels were blasted with plastic bead so no heat, no warping.

After media blast with "dirty 30" grit. I had patched the right rear floor before giving in to professional help. I had also cut out part of the right front floor and opened up the rear rocker corners. Obviously, the spare wheel well was toast, but that just made the decision to go electric that much easier. Other than that, it really wasn't too bad.


Prior to sealing. Before someone gets all wiggy about the rotisserie bracket mounts, this is a US car so it has big braces welded in behind the bumper brackets, plus they welded in some braces to the trunk floor also. No coupes were harmed in this photo.


Other than the known spots, it really is quite solid.


The shock towers are perfect. No rebar and fiberglass here (that one's for you, Paul).



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Tyler cut out the sunroof frame so he could properly patch the roof, repair rust in the brace, replace the foam between the roof and the sunroof structure, etc. He also filled the US side marker holes and fixed some minor rust in the front and rear windshield frames.

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Some unexpected rust in the roof behind the sunroof.

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The sunroof structure ready to be cleaned up and reinstalled.

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This is the brace that supports the roof. The factory foam holds moisture and will be replaced with some much better material.

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In for a penny, in for a pound. Might as well do it right at this point. Amazing what a single pinhole can lead to....

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The Tesla parts should arrive in a couple weeks. In the meantime, Brett has cut out the trunk area in anticipation of the motor install (I'm using the smaller Tesla rear-drive unit, by the way). The goal is 294 HP and 200 miles of range. There are still many, many details (battery placement, P/S, P/B, A/C, cooling, etc., etc.) to figure out. I'll use this thread as the place for how all that plays out. It's sure to be a long road.


In the meantime, I'm learning CAN Bus programming and trying to integrate the Tesla data with the factory BMW gauges. Details to follow.

So happy you decided to do a build thread!

One thing you may not have mentioned that folks might appreciate is the approach you are taking with the project.

Where my project is extreme in most ways, you are preserving everything possible in the stock car: steering, brakes, 15” stock wheels, stock shifter, interior. While I have tried to preserve the essence of the e9, I clearly modernized far more mechanical and other items than I had to.

So I find your project fascinating. Not even a die-hard e9 fan will know it’s an EV until they open the hood or take a ride with you.

Sorry I didn’t mean to hijack your thread:)

They do make terrific cousins!

Fantastic Jeff.

Someday we will all (well, almost all) be looking back and think... "That Paul guy... he was the brave pioneer who blazed the trail to show you can breathe a new life in the coupe world".
Update. Tesla motor, axles, and batteries have arrived. Unlike Paul, who is using the large Tesla motor, I have opted for the small rear drive motor. My goal is 300 hp and 200 miles of range. Not the 450 hp Paul is shooting for. 300 seems like plenty to me, given the stiffness (lack thereof) of our skinny pillared unibodies. Plus, the small motor sheds 100 pounds vs the large motor and is physically smaller, allowing more battery placement flexibility.


We roughed in the brake hydro boost and a master just to see how much room was left for batteries. Using simple math and foam dummies, it appears we should be able to fit 10 modules up front, leaving 4 more to go in the trunk.


In the meantime, Tyler has been patching rusted areas, fixing dents, and filling unwanted holes. Look ma, no exhaust cutout.




This is great, I am following this to see the completion. I am huge fan of Tesla and owner of one as well. So this is awesome build to see and I’m glad you are sharing with us!
So I think I read you were designing "kits" for others to convert their cars to electric. Groovy man. I'm there! ;)

BTW, the missing bolt that's holding up your entire project is on it's way.
Oh nice, more Tesla swaps! My e9 Tesla swap is pretty much in same state. Body repair stuff mostly done, and now installing the motor to trunk. Just trying to figure out where to get coilovers in Europe, that can then be modified for air suspension. What's your plan with suspension?

Good luck with your project!
My goal is as stock as possible. I am using stock suspension with CN springs and camber plates. Compare to Paul who has coil overs, wilwood, rack and pinion, etc.

Have you got your roof issues sorted out?
I've been meaning to post more regularly but... progress is slow and I'm so busy, etc...

I find that this project tickles all the right parts of my brain. Recently I:
  • Rebuilt my ATE brake calipers with freshly zinc plated and new parts
  • Tested my old temp sensor to map the resistance curve so that I can digitally manipulate the original analog gauges
  • Played with programming a digital potentiometer from a Raspberry Pi 3b+ for above
  • Got my refurbished wood back from Bela
  • Discussed fabrication for motor placement and ride height with Paul and team
  • Programmed a very rough digital dash display to run on the Raspberry Pi
  • Began assembling my front struts with all new and powder coated parts

I enjoy all these activities immensely. Putting mechanical bits back together, making things pretty, getting creative, writing software (also my day job), doing something unique. Now, all that being said, there have been a lot of bumps in the road and failures.

It turns out the range for the temp sensor is only about 0 to 600 ohms but I bought a 10k ohm digital pot with a linear taper and only a 7 bit word for taps so it doesn't have enough resolution (128 total taps across 0-10k). That, and I've failed to properly control it anyway. So, I'm looking to buy a different chip and try again. BTW, if anyone wants a formula very close to the temp gauge curve it is r = 6E+07t-2.62 where r is resistance and t is temperature.

As previously discussed, I had one rear caliper bolt break during assembly but @dang came through with a (free!) replacement so the calipers are all done now. That was a long process of disassembly (had to get a grease gun to force out pistons), cleanup (blasted with walnut shells and rinsed/blew air through/etc many times), plating (gold for caliper halves, spacers, and pad retainers, black oxide for bolts and nuts), obtaining new parts (rebuild kits, pads, and bleeders), and assembly (had to buy a bottle of brake assembly fluid which I am unlikely to need again anytime soon). Oh, and the rebuild kits do not include the o-rings for the spacers used with vented rotors so I had to source those separately from McMaster Carr. As @sfdon has suggested, it would be so much easier to pay someone to do this job. But less satisfying.

The wood from @bela22 looks gorgeous. Went with original French Walnut, semi-gloss finish. It was held up in customs for a long time and took a while for his craftsmanship but the end result was worth the wait. Rich color, flawless finish. But nothing ever goes perfect and in this case the point on the top right of the long curved dash piece got bunged up in shipping. The hope is that the brightwork will cover it but I haven't had a chance to fit the two pieces together to test (so many of my parts are in a rented garage away from home). It will be a long time before I'm ready to install any interior anyway.

One of the ideas for the digital dash is to put it in place of the tach. Ideally, this would be done with a square display that would fit between the speedo and clock (about 5 inches) but square displays are super hard to come by. Then, a UK company announced a 5 inch square touch display for under $100. Paul and I each bought one, only to realize upon delivery that they are 5 inches diagonally so only about 4" square -- too small for the tach hole. Back to either a 16:9 in portrait sticking down below the dash or some other solution. I'm actually thinking about putting a horizontal 16:9 behind the speaker grill but haven't fully flushed out that idea yet.

I have the motor controller for the Tesla motor and plan to integrate that with the Pi over a CAN bus for instrumentation (not using it for gear selection -- there are 12v inputs on the controller for gear selection so I plan to fab a unit with detents and a delay relay that will integrate with the original BMW automatic shifter but I haven't even started on that yet). However, I couldn't get my Pi to boot with the PICAN2 hat attached. It appears it might be a faulty board so I've sent it back (but it is out of warranty because I bought it more than 30 days ago). So, while waiting to verify that the board was bad and possible need to purchase a new one, I have yet to successfully write any code to receive CAN messages. Also, the PICAN2 is a kind of lame design where it covers all the GPIO pins on the Pi, even though it only actually uses 4 (or 6, I forget) so I have to fabricate a GPIO bridge to allow simultaneous connection of the CAN hat and access to the i2c pins for the digital pots. Oh, and even if the square display had been the right size, it too stacks onto the GPIO pins and covers them all (versus using the HDMI connector) so there is no (easy) way to connect the CAN board and that display at the same time. Live and learn. Last night I got a HDMI-connected 16:9 display. But I'm struggling to set the proper resolution on it. I told you I'd share all the bumps in the road along the way.

I originally started programming the Pi in Python, using the PyGame library for graphic control but I found it cumbersome and progress was slow. I've since moved to Electron, targeting Linux for the Pi and it is *so* much better. I put together a sample dash (far from anything we'll ever actually use) just to mess around. There's a node.js module for interfacing with the CAN controller and I should be able to use electron's IPC ability to pass the CAN messages from the node process to the electron client. If not, I may have to resort to using webSockets between the two. All things left to experiment with.

It took me a while to figure out which camber plate was left and which was right (I had them powder coated and therefore lost Carl's original markings) but I found a photo of the my fenders and the three holes are eccentric enough that I was able to figure it out. Now I have to modify a socket to allow holding the damper rod Allen key while tightening the top nut. Unless someone in the LA area has one I can borrow. Also would like to make a wrench for the retaining nut that holds the Koni into the strut assembly versus just using a pipe wrench, which is how I got it apart. Interestingly, the original nut had 4 smaller slots while the Koni nuts have two larger slots. Another project @sfdon avoids, having had one side of a spring compressor fail and scare the crap out of him. But I'm OK with it.

You get the idea -- lots of fun, creative problems to solve.

In the meantime, Tyler has been fixing rust and pounding out dents -- something I do not have the skill to do well. You have to know your limitations.


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My goal is as stock as possible. I am using stock suspension with CN springs and camber plates. Compare to Paul who has coil overs, wilwood, rack and pinion, etc.

Have you got your roof issues sorted out?

I'm planning to use stock brakes, as they don't tend to be in much use on ev anyways. Now with VW ID3, they have drum brakes at rear as they are on so little use! I don't even plan to put any brake booster.

Roof is sorted out, came out real good. Now got the motor installed too. Maybe I should write update as well :)

Wood trims of yours look really good. Maybe I do the same. Planning also to do some rasperry pi instrument cluster. Thanks for the electron tip.
Updates. Confirmed PICAN2 board was faulty. Copper Hill Tech stood tall and sent me a replacement for free but I haven't had time to experiment with it yet.
Roof repair is done. Sunroof installed and operating.
Rockers and bottom of front fenders opened up to inspect rust. Doesn't look too bad (door posts solid, rocker rust appears to stop about 5 inches forward) but waiting until replacement panels from W&N arrive before opening up all the way.
Rear fender wells and floor/trunk/rear seat area re-enforced in anticipation of Tesla motor install.
Tyler built an adapter to Paul's Tesla motor installation stand so that it holds my small Tesla motor.
Rear subframe cut-up to remove diff mount portion. Bushings installed and mounted to car. Will be modified to mount to tunnel since no stock diff. (3.63 factory LSD from my automatic car for sale $1,200 + shipping if desired)
Motor positioned into place but need trailing arms with stub axles and drive flanges in place to align to.
Finished assembling front struts last week (lessons learned wrt assembling order of washers and grease gasket disc etc in another thread).
Finished rear trailing arms today. This went without a hitch but took the better part of a day on the press to get in new bearings and bushings, measure spacers, pack with grease, etc.
Got a 3D printer (so cheap now - under @200). Printed a few CSE logos just for fun.


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Love those reinforcements on the wheel wells etc. Hopefully your documenting those structural items that could be implemented on a normal coupe to increase strength. Great update!
Another update.
  • Rear trailing arms mounted to car so that we could accurately locate the drive flanges. Unfortunately, I had already powder coated and plated or replaced all my suspension and brake bits so I wrapped it all in plastic to hopefully protect and keep clean while we weld away on the chassis.
  • Motor measured in car numerous times. Had to make sure it is centered, level, proper height, proper distance front-to-rear, etc. Difficult with no real straight surfaces on the motor. The smaller Tesla motor allows slightly lower and further forward placement, as compared to the large motor unit in Paul's car. Axles align perfectly.
  • Had to cut up the chassis dolly to get it out of the way of the motor.
  • All three motor mounts done. Cut clevises out of 1/4 plate steel with plasma (a water jet would've been handy but Tyler is a pro with the plasma torch and an angle grinder -- we're like old-school hot rodders). Welded mounts to re-enforced rails along rear seat, where diff usually mounts, and to re-enforcement plate welded to left wheel tub, and finally to steel beam welded across width of car, attached to further tub enforcements. As Tyler said, "ya ain't gettin' that off." He made the rear clevis out of a single piece of steel and bent it to shape. Now the Tesla motor can be installed or removed easily by a single person (with the jig/stand and three bolts).
  • On the electronics side, I powered up the replacement PICAN2 CAN bus controller on the Raspberry Pi (after soldering in jumpers for the terminating resistor -- a CAN network needs at least two nodes, with terminating resistors on each end). This new board works perfectly -- the old bad board had me questioning myself. I used the switch-mode power supply on the CAN board to power the Pi (no more USB wall wart) and also powered up the Drive Unit Controller as the other CAN node, all using a PC power supply for the 12 volts. After some Linux configuration, I was able to successfully run the Linux CAN Utilities and candumped the messages from the Drive Unit Controller. From there, I worked on programming some Inter Process Communication (ICP) from my Electron program's node server to the renderer UI process. That took a while because the newer versions of Electron disable node integration (be sure to specify nodeIntegration: true when initializing the browser window). Once that was done, I used the Node.js SocketCAN extensions to receive the messages from the drive unit into the node process and then relay them to the UI. From there, I was able to display the values in my UI. This was a major step, with all the pieces finally in place and working. True, most of the message values are zero because I don't have the drive unit controller connected to the drive unit itself yet, but a few values oscillate to prove it is working. From there, I wrote some code to decode the data buffers into values useful to the dash. Now I just need to make it all pretty. I've experimented with React and Electron together so next I'll bring react into the app and write some react components for the dash.
  • In the meantime, Paul got a Tesla junction box, 12 volt transformer, and charger as he begins the process of actually getting his car driving around the parking lot. Those components ended up being larger and heavier than we had anticipated, weighing in at over 40 pounds. Add all the 2 gauge wiring, z-bars, etc. and you can understand that it isn't just a motor and 14 batteries contributing to the mass of these EVs. I still have a lot of decisions to make with regard to where stuff is going to go in my car.
  • All the while, Tyler is tackling the remaining rust, digging into the rockers now. They don't look bad from the outside put he's pulling off the outer skin so that we can really see and treat what's under there. I bought patch panels from W&N to reduce the amount of fabrication. Hopefully there are no new surprises.


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